Monday, December 29, 2008

Eating on one dollar a day

A couple of educators tried an experiment to put themselves in the shoes of those in poverty. They tried to live on a diet foodstuffs that cost only $1 dollar a day. The experiment started their own blog and lots of media coverage.

We found out about the diet from this article reprinted in the Chicago Sun Times. Writer Eliene Zimmerman took a look into their kitchen.

The couple, who are both teach English and social justice in southern California high schools, tried to live for one month eating no more than a dollar’s worth of food a day each. (That required buying in bulk; hence the green bins.) Although the project ultimately raised the public’s awareness of poverty and hunger, it started out as a way to lower the couple’s food bill.

“Kerri noticed it was pretty high, about $100 to $150 a week. We were buying prepackaged foods, frozen foods, soy milk, lots of organic fruits and vegetables,” says Greenslate. (He and Leonard are vegans and do not eat animal products.)

When they compared their own food costs with the international poverty rate - $1.25 today, according to the World Bank - Greenslate says they were astonished. “Here we were spending all this money on food every week, and the contrast between that and what those in poverty live on was stark. I wondered if we could actually feed ourselves on a dollar a day,” he says.

In September they began eating less and blogging about it on their website. In the beginning, Greenslate was hungrier than Leonard. But after the first three or four days, “I had more energy, and my appetite decreased,” he says.

By the second week, however, it had become much harder. “There were days where I would hold onto my lectern in class because I felt too lightheaded. It became harder and harder.”

Leonard daydreamed about food. “I would look through my cookbooks thinking, ’I wish we could have that tonight.’ It was like window shopping,” she says Greenslate lost 14 pounds that month; Leonard lost five. Preparing meals could take hours. Almost everything had to be made from scratch, including bread, tortillas, refried beans, and wheat gluten steaks.


Greenslate and Leonard may have tried living in food poverty for a month, but they did not live in true poverty, says Susanne Freidberg, an associate professor of geography at Dartmouth College who studies the political economy of food.

“They were able to do research and then get in their car and buy a 25-pound bag of cornmeal at the right store for the lowest price. I think if you are that poor, you are buying one cup of flour, an eighth of a head of cabbage, and a little baggie of vegetable oil. On that scale, you’re not getting the food as cheaply,” she says. In many poor countries it’s not just the food people cannot afford but also the fuel for cooking, says Freidberg. “There is such a vast variation worldwide in terms of how people live that ’eating on a dollar a day’ isn’t really meaningful.

”If you live on a dollar a day and you have land and enough hands to work it and the rains are good, the dollar is irrelevant. If you live in a city and depend on the market for food, then you are really suffering.“

1 comment:

jj said...

I love this idea. I think more people should try it.

I wonder if living on less than one dollar a day, according to poverty terms, includes housing, clothes and utilities.